Anxiety

Joy-thief

Devourer of delight

Glad-foe

Curled at the base of my neck

Coiled in my guts

Gnawing at my heart

Remove your fangs, adder!

Let your poison course from me!

Let me be heil, let me be heil, let me be heil!

Ever-hungry

Feeder of fear

Heart-render

Tightening my limbs

Twisting my bones

Hammering my pulse

Stop your thrashing, troll!

Take your teeth off my mind!

Let me know peace, let me know peace, let me know peace!

Love-sapper

Tearer of ties

Mind-killer

Sat in the depths of my chest

Stirring my blood

Stealing my breath

I shatter the stabbing spear!

I take your shot from my souls!

I will be heil, I will be heil, I will be heil!

Patreon Topic 63: On Being a Teacher in the Community

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Ansuz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck comes this topic:

“What’s it like being a teacher in the community?”

It depends on the subject at hand, if I am teaching students or peers, and who the larger audience receiving the information may be. Whether it is here on the blog through topics, at conventions like ConVocation, MI Paganfest, or Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day teaching through workshops, or direct teaching, I generally find teaching a rewarding and powerful experience. There are few things as gratifying as getting a good question from someone who has real engagement in the subject, or a question or comment that makes you sit back, go “huh” and plumb your own knowledge or the crowd’s for an answer. I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy the opportunity to learn while doing it, and to share what I learn wrapped up in that.

When I do workshops, I find that I tend to have a really good time because the folks that come to them want to learn, and/or have a good grasp of the subject and want to compare notes. That was definitely my experience at the recent Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day September 10th, for both my Basics of Heathen Magic and Polytheism 101 workshops. Folks who turned out for them had really excellent questions, solid engagement, and abiding interest in the topic at hand.

I would say a good chunk of what is challenging about being a teacher in the Heathen communities has nothing to do immediately with my students, peers, or folks that come to learn from me. Rather, it is the overall cultural currents we swim in, both in terms of the overculture and that of the general Heathen communities, that makes the work of being a teacher so hard. On the one hand folks want to be taught and to have spiritual experts available, and on the other, there is not a lot of support for us doing that work in a reliable way. Many Pagan communities eschew paying folks for their work, whether that work is divination, teaching, developing training materials, etc, yet the demand is still there for that work.

The need for teachers becomes fairly obvious in the dialogue that still happens around concepts like orthodoxy and orthopraxy, terms that describe right thought and right action. Often, because of how terms like orthodoxy are used and weaponized in Christian theology and communities, Pagan and polytheist folks tend to have reactions against the use of the term. I have also seen similar reactions to direct translations of the term, eg right relationship. Some of these objections are based in the notion that someone is trying to mediate their relationship with the Ginnreginn, and some are based in a rejection of anything that smacks of authority. Because of these prevailing views in the polytheist and Pagan communities, it makes deeper discussion of these concepts harder, if not impossible. I have found that presenting these as the neutral, descriptive terms that they are, as opposed to the often prescriptivist way they are used in Christian theology and communities, is a good counteractive to this. That requires us to be open to education, to communicating well, to deconstructing Christian theology and use of terms, and no small amount of patience.

Much of the reason for the two workshops I put on for Ann Arbor Pagan Pride is not only because those subjects are really useful in the context of being part of a Pagan Pride event, being 101 workshops, but because the sources we do have for solid historically-based information, especially with regard to modern and updated texts, are expensive and difficult to parse at times. Even in more approachable texts, like Dr. Price’s The Viking Way, they tend to be dense/hard to get through, and terms need to be broken down and made meaningful for a modern Heathen context. The meaningfulness here not only needs to be meaningful in regards to being able to be understood in a Heathen context, it also needs to be able to be applied to Heathen practice.

For an example of this, from Price:

“Besides the magic used by Óðinn, we also find the fifth category of ‘general’ sorcery. One aspect of this has a vocabulary of terms that appear to mean simply ‘magic’ in the same vague sense as we use the word today. The most common of these was fjolkyngi, which seems to have been especially well-used. In the Old Norse sources we also find fróðleikr, and slightly later, trolldómr (cf. Raudvere 2001: 88ff). The latter concept became increasingly common through the Middle Ages, and together with galdr it continued as one of the generic words for ‘witchcraft’ long into post-medieval times (see Hastrup 1987: 331–6 for Icelandic terminologies of magic during this period). There were also other terms which were used as collectives. These include gerningar, ljóð and taufr – all apparently kinds of chant or charm – and the complexities of runic lore as set out in Eddic poems such as Sigrdrífomál and Rígsþula. Another group of terms refers to various forms of unspecified magical knowledge, and include affixes implying this on the part of people or supernatural beings. Thus we find vísenda-, kúnatta- and similar words used for ‘those who know’, a relatively common perception of sorcerous power that occurs in many cultures.” (Price 33)

“The fabric of religious belief and practice in Viking-Age Scandinavia can be seen to have been nuanced, multi-scalar and far from static, with a degree of regional variation and change over time.” (Price 33)

I had to break down these terms and suggest ways we may use them in a modern Heathen context. In this way we continue to change the fabric of religious belief, nuance, and the application of these terms in a descriptive rather than prescriptive way for ourselves in our own time. For instance, while I often combine galdr (I tie this into singing/intoning the Runes) with the formation of taufr (physical charms) and other forms of magic techniques such as gerningar (chanting, sometimes mumbled under the breath) and ljóð (chanting or incantation which I interpret as being in verse, whether alliterative or rhyming), each stands on their own as a magical technique in its own right. Clearly definining and then applying these terms gives us a wider array of words, and in doing so, ways, of understanding magic.

Keep in mind these workshops are just at the 101 level. Being a teacher in the communities I am part of requires a recognition that folks are at wherever they are at when we come together. Some will have an excellent grounding in exoteric and esoteric Heathenry, whereas some will have a poor grounding in the exoteric parts of the religion, and others will have a poor grounding in esoteric religion. Sometimes folks will just be inexperienced with polytheist religion in general, or not have a good grounding in either exoteric or esoteric Heathenry. Having a mix of exoteric and esoteric practice in and of itself would not be at issue if it were grounded firmly in the Heathen worldview, experience, and understanding. So, I have to establish where we are. I often do this in my 101 workshops by starting off defining terms so we have a foundation to build conversation on. Unless we make these firm foundations deeper conversations are almost impossible to have. Once we have a shared language around the subject we can dig into it.

Part of the work of being a teacher is to ensure, as much as I can, that those I teach have a firm grounding in the material and its meaning. So long as folks are coming into our various polytheist and Pagan communities with these ideas grounded in worldviews other than our own this basic education will be necessary. To be clear: A lot of this I do not have to explain to my kids, who are second generation Heathens. It is a part of how they live their lives. This education is, by and large, necessary for those who were not raised in the religion.

Some of the reason for that lack of need to educate them is that my kids are only practicing exoteric Heathenry. My oldest has not expressed interest in learning esoteric practices, and my youngest is way too young to learn at the moment. Gods help me, though, she loves the Runes. When we go to have breakfast, she often picks ‘coffee Runes’ from my arms (I have tattoos on my forearms displaying all the Runes) that she has me ‘takes off’ my arm, puts them into my coffee, and than has me galdr the Rune. Then, I drink the coffee. It’s a fun way to share the Runes with her and empower myself for a full day. What esoteric practices my kids have learned are immediately applicable to exoteric practice and everyday life, namely cleansing by deep breathing. They have learned prayers and proper respect to show with the hearth, Sacred Fires, and other places the exoteric and esoteric tend to cross.

Teaching a workshop or even over the course of a weekend is one thing, but teaching folks in an ongoing way is a lot different. My Kindred started as a Rune study group, and eventually transormed into a Heathe Kindred, Mimisbrunnr Kindred, over about a year or two. Some folks from here asked for training in different areas, and delved into spirtwork in their own ways. Just being available has been a good part of my work with one-on-one work. Being available to answer questions, guide, or ask questions to help folks find their own answers, it is less the way we think of teaching in terms of a professor and student and more of a “I’ve walked this path and I’m here to help guide”.

Being a teacher, I get invited to help folks with their journey wherever they are when they come forward. Seeing folks really dig into their religion, whatever their experience with it, and getting to understand how it works and where they are within it is a gratifying thing. If I happen to get to help along that journey, if I can make a material impact on how they learn, what they learn, and make that easier or more involved or both, so much the better. The reason I teach is because the Ginnreginn call me to do it. On its own that is enough. What makes my work all the more gratifying is being able to see the folks I teach make progress as part of taking a workshop, watching a video, or asking me questions through email or Discord. Sometimes I have had folks come back to me a few weeks, months, or in some cases, years later, and share some of the absolutely amazing things they were able to do because of the time we shared. It really is an honor to do this work.

I have tried writing more on this but not much more is coming forward right now, so if you or other readers have more specific questions down this line please ask them!

On a Threshold

I am waiting on a threshold

The door is cool and warm

Excitement rings through me

What is on the other side?

A new experience, a new path

Out of reach and aching close

Something sings to my heart there

Beautiful tones and throbbing bass

Shaking through my bones

I am scared, thrilled, intimidated

To hear a call, a beckoning

To walk through the portal

Not yet, not yet the singers call

The iron wood unyielding

Implacable and promising

Soon, soon the singers utter

The threshold’s sentinel waits

To open its arms in invitation

I stand waiting

Eager and attentive

Ready to cross the way

Rest

What is it to not do spiritwork for months on end? It is service to others, whether to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, and/or those in my communities. The pause I have taken was to rest. As was pointed out to me by several loved ones, I was definitely burning my candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle too.

Since October I have taken time off from spiritwork. That means no public rituals, no divination work, and almost no spirit travel for others. It has also meant I have done as little personal spiritwork as I am able. This does not mean everything is cast aside, though.

I still cleanse, ground, center, and shield everyday at least once a day. I still make prayers every day. I still make time to think and pray. I still do magic as I need to. Clearly, I still write.

I will not pretend like taking this time off has been easy. It has not. I deeply enjoy doing spiritwork. The writing prompts, whether the topic suggestions, Q&As, or prayer requests, all provide a powerful challenge and incentive to write and do spiritwork on their own. Likewise, the videos I have been producing have pushed me to think hard about how to be informative and concise about the Basics of Heathenry.

Something I have remarked to folks through Around Grandfather Fire and its Discord server is that I struggle with the need to be or feel productive. Rather than constantly fight with myself over this, I have reframed the last few months’ break as a form of service. When it comes to brass tacks, that is what it is. I cannot perform well if I am constantly overworking myself. I cannot do the best work that I can for the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, my communities, or myself, if I am constantly exhausted. Reframing rest as service, as furthering the work, helps to put my mind at ease. I recognize how fucked up that is, that the only way that I feel I can relax and put things aside is by framing them in terms of service to the work. I hasten to point out, though, that no God, Ancestor, or vaettr has put this mindset on me. This is definitely the product of the overculture. Sometimes Odin will push, but He has not pushed me as much as I have pushed myself.

Am I going to start back up with spiritwork in February? I am not sure. I will be doing some talking with my partners, friends, and doing some thinking and praying. ConVocation has been postponed until next year. My two weeks of vacation I was going to take for it are locked in. I either take the vacation or simply lose it. I am seriously considering just taking February off to enjoy the two weeks in our new home, and relaxing.

Funny enough, I started to write this post before the latest episode of Around Grandfather Fire. We are just starting our 4th season with Episode 83. I had not yet decided on whether to take February off. By the end of the episode I had decided that I would. It would mean six months off from professional spiritwork.

Why, if I valued my spiritwork so highly and the work I do for others would I take so much time off? I need it. In the time since I began my break I have encountered heavy mandatory overtime at work, worked on buying our home, and finally, came down with COVID-19 before moving in. We are mostly moved now, and despite the many months off from spiritwork, work in various forms has eaten what would have been the empty space there. Had I been doing spiritwork alongside all the work I am doing as a father, partner, and worker, I would probably have collapsed by now.

What helped turn me around on a lot of this was framing things not through an individual narrative, but a collective one. Being a goði, spiritworker, father, partner, and community means I am part of a whole. I am part of a tribe. I do not live for just myself. If anyone in my Kindred or tribe came to me with my workload what would my response be?

“Take some time off and relax for fuck’s sake!”

I have held unreasonably high expectations of myself for a long while. Part of reframing my mindset on rest was not just ‘this is good for me, Sarenth the individual’. What I needed was ‘this is good for my communities’ and ‘this is good for Sarenth, and this good benefits the communities I am in’. Much of my mindset is not about myself, but about what I can do for the Kindred and tribe I am in. If I crash, break down, collapse, or fall apart I can no longer do my best within those communities. It is not only in my interest, but in my communities’ interests that I care for myself, learn to pace myself, and do right by myself. So, for the time being I will do that: I will rest, so that when I return to spiritwork I can do so with my full faculties and do the best job that I am able to.

Musings on Spiritwork

Sometimes, spiritwork is hard. It can be hard to want to do the daily work, to want to do the daily prayers, to want to do the work that is ours to do. It can be hard to find the motivation, let alone the energy to do all that can be asked of us.

A lot of us spiritworkers are hard on ourselves. Trying to do more with less. Less sleep, time to ourselves, self-care. We want to do more of the thing that pushes us to wake up and (eventually) go to bed. The spiritwork itself is hard enough. What makes it harder, or at least puts barriers in front of the motivation, is all the stuff I have to do in front of and behind the spiritwork that makes sitting down to it that much harder.

There is also no denying that many spiritworkers are burning not only their own candle at both ends, they’re sometimes switching tea lights to keep the fire going. I have had times like that. Some of it is the absolutely toxic work ethic in the United States. Some of it is my upbringing. I have written on this blog before on what a hamstringing effect feeling like you have to be ‘productive’ all the time can be.

So how to get beyond that? To a certain extent I recognize that getting ‘beyond’ the United States’ obsession with burying its working class is not going to happen anytime soon, at least on a societal scale. To a certain degree, it’s the climax of Wargame: the only way to win is not to play. Sometimes I lack the willpower to do that. So, I work with the impulse. I reframe rest as offering or work itself so that when I am called to work, I can do it. Sometimes this works, and sometimes I stare at the ceiling because anxious brain weasels are assholes.

To this end binaural beats, rain sounds, crackling fires, and other such videos and sound makes up my YouTube Meditation and Relaxation playlist. Sometimes this works. Sometimes I am staring at the ceiling as my ears are full of sound. There are going to be times when, no matter how much deep breathing after cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and other work you do, you are just not going to sleep. When I am like this I take the time to rest anyway, just so my body is not moving, my brain is not spinning on projects or anxiety.

It is very easy to write these words and far harder to do them. Pushing yourself to rest is a kind of discipline, and it is one I am still learning how to do. Sometimes video games in bed, eg my Switch or my phone, helps this. Sometimes it gets right in the way. So, I need to be adaptable. More often than not if I start to read I will want to stay up to finish the book, so I tend not to read. It usually does not put me to sleep; it stimulates.

There is no small amount of self-control, self-awareness, and self-discipline that a spiritworker needs to cultivate. The thing, though, is not to fool ourselves that there is ‘an end’ to this. There will be setbacks, times where, no matter how much effort I put forward the thing at hand will not be done. I also need to not excuse this, just to acknowledge I have failed to do it, that it this does not make me a terrible spiritworker or anything else, and to get back on the proverbial horse the next day.

Ginnreginn all know this far easier to write than it is to put into practice. It still needs to be done.

There will always be Work to do. There will always be things that need doing, whether the chores or the obligations, the little things or the big things. The best I can do is all I can do, and from there on, as best as I can, I have patience with myself.

Spiritwork is hard and gratifying. It is a real blessing to be able to do. It is a beautiful thing to watch as someone develops their practice, or asks for help in building a new relationship with their Gods, Ancestors, spirits, or all three. It is a powerful experience to feel Them so close, to experience Their Presence, and to facilitate Work that will bring others to that. It is wonderful to partner with the Ginnreginn to do the Work.

Seiðr Song

Rocking, rocking

It begins small

In the seed, in the seiðr

It erupts from below

The power unleashed

In the seed, in the seiðr

It builds up through the middle

The being grows

From the seed, from the seiðr

It extends to the Worlds

The hamr is strong

From the seed, from the seiðr

It bears fruit to the Worlds

The megin is mighty

From the seed, from the seiðr

Its fruit leaves seeds

The cycle renews

From the seed, from the seiðr

Cutting Ties Pt. 2

There are two parts to this. The first is a copy of the email I sent to Galina Krasskova and Sannion so that everyone knows what I have said and there is no mistaking my stance on things.

The second, this post, is my reflections on things.

I am going to ask everyone who is going to comment to fully read these posts first. Know that I do not delete posts unless they are spam. I also make frequent backups of this blog. None of the conclusions I have reached or the actions I have taken or will be taking in the future were arrived at with haste. If anything, this has been a long time coming where I have ignored my internal compass for too long, and I have hit my limit. Now, on to Part 2.

It has been a year since I reached this decision, and I have not regretted my decision to cut ties whatsoever. It does not feel like a year, though. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Looking back, if I regret anything, it is that it took me this long to make the choice to cut ties. In the last few years I knew them, both besmirched anyone even a bit to the left of them, which is fairly far right. For awhile I thought perhaps they were both centrist. In my early friendship with her, Galina and I held a lot of similar views in regards to universal healthcare, the right of a woman to choose, civil rights for LGBTQIA+ folks, civil rights for BIPOC, and on many other issues. Towards the end of our relationship I had a sinking feeling when they both made fun of or criticized pronouns, particularly the use of they and the use of differing pronouns such as that of Spivak, or neo-pronouns. Likewise to their denigration of the Left in general, Black Lives Matter, and social justice in general.

There were a great many red flags that I ignored for a long while. Their insistence that the Gods were either above political machinations, something I have only ever heard when folks want you to ignore the political implications of their positions, or the over-focus on miasma were warning signs. Something Galina said towards the beginning of our relationship, and that I still hold quite true, is that polytheism itself is revolutionary. It is. To then insist, especially as loudly as she and Sannion did, that the Gods are “above” politics, is to completely ignore the history of how enmeshed the Gods have been in them, and quite firmly are. If someone insists that the Gods are above politics, do not just question it. Demand they explain themselves. While a given God or Goddess is not likely a Republican or Democrat, a socialist or a capitalist Themselves, polytheism, and the Gods from whom these religions are devoted to and rise from, have definite leanings, if not views.

The over-focus on miasma is something that I should have understood as a red flag. It is one thing to wish to be clean, but to insist on it, in all areas? It becomes Puritanical. Taken to the extreme it becomes the fascist idea of rooting out all that is unclean and purging it. This is different from being sure to cleanse oneself before ritual, before divination, before hearth cultus, and so on. The focus on miasma and cleansing it that marked their writing before I cut them out of my life had, at that point, reached something of a fever pitch. Ironic, considering that Sannion picked up and wore one of the most contaminated symbols he could possibly have, and that Galina then defended this decision.

There were a lot of red flags otherwise. Red flags that I set aside, and ignored my own internal compass on. I gave passes when I should not have. To be sure, I argued with Galina and Sannion in private, especially with regards to how they spoke about Black Lives Matter, their hatred towards Islam, antifa, and other subjects. I could have and should have been much more public in my pushback. I thought, given we were colleagues and friends, and I was initiated under both of them, that maybe I had more pull with them than what I did. Had I pushed back earlier the letter I wrote would have been different, and written much earlier. I cannot undo the choices I made that led me ignoring my internal struggle with their rhetoric and harm, nor the choices that led me to separating from them in the way I did.

I cannot tell you what has happened to either of them in the interim beyond a few scant details, and I have no big desire to hear, read, or delve into gossip about them nor to be updated on them. I have avoided their media presences, blocked every method of contact, and have not written or spoke about them much until this post. I needed the time to grieve as they are both dead to me, whatever their physical status is.

This amount of separation has given me time to think on Galina’s role in my life as a Heathen. She came into my life not too long after I became a Heathen. At the time there was a fierce divide in the Heathens and Heathen communities I encountered between folks who were more experiential and those who weighed everything by “The Lore”. It was a fierce one too, one I found fairly inhospitable as a good chunk of the latter were composed of ‘blood and soil’ types, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Galina’s books at the time, and Raven Kaldera’s too, opened up my Heathen exploration to experiences with the Gods in dynamic and powerful ways that still affect me to this day.

When I cut Galina and Sannion out of my life I questioned everything. I asked questions like “Is everything I experienced complete and total bullshit? Do I actually have skill with the Runes? Am I really an Odinsson? Am I a spiritworker? Am I a good Heathen?”

Again and again I parsed those questions and those like them, sometimes at intrusive times. They would pop up when I was trying to sleep or relax. When I was in the shower, about to pray, before divination sessions. I could put them aside for awhile, and they would still be there. Eventually, I came to my understanding in conversation with dear friends and in self-reflection.

Galina was my Elder, mentor, and for most of the relationship after the first four years or so, a colleague to me. We knew each other since about 2007. However, she was not the container of my relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. She was a bridge in them, but she did not contain them. She did not make me a spiritworker any more than she made me a child of Odin. Being a child of Odin was a revelation I came to well before I met her, and being a spiritworker is something I have always felt called to in some fashion or another. Whether it was through her, another teacher, or just my interactions with the Ginnreginn I was likely going to be doing something like what I am now whatever else I did. It is clear from my experiences with and feedback from others that I am a good Heathen, a skilled spiritworker, and skilled in working with the Runes. Looking over my experiences, and the effects they have had on others, most of what I experienced as Galina’s apprentice, student, and colleague was genuine. I have enough people in my life who live genuine, good lives who were willing to call me on my bullshit if I were anything else.

The Runes as vaettir, as spirits? It made sense to me, and given the experiences I had of Them before I ran into her work, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I have no doubt the Runes are vaettir, powerful ones at that. When you cut someone this meaningful to your spiritual journey out of your life, though, you question everything.

Though far less involved than Galina, my experiences and studies with Sannion occupy a similar place. The experiences and initiation I had with the Toys of Dionysos were genuine. The experiences I had with Dionysos were genuine.

Looking back, I think the biggest tragedy between the both of them, and those who have similar stories to them, is the incredible amount of good they could have done. Through their actions they have tainted their work, probably irrevocably. Their work helped provide firm foundations from which others grew. It could have informed many generations of polytheists.

Equally important as the time I have taken to grieve and reflect in the last year is the time I have taken to heal and empower myself. I have kept a regimen of regular cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding. I partnered with Water in a lot of this work, under guidance from a dear friend and spiritworker. I have done ongoing spiritual work for myself and for others in the community. I have kept up my devotions to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, my Ginnreginn. My ties with my Ginnreginn and communities continues to deepen. The cutting of ties with these two has not dampened my desire to do this Work; if anything, it is invigorated in the face of it. It is clear we need more people public-facing willing to talk about, and especially, to do the Work.

To that end, I will continue to offer my services as a spiritworker, which can be found on my Spiritwork Services page, and through my Patreon. I will keep up my fulfilling work with Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm. I will continue to write here on my blog, which you can support through my Patreon. I will continue to make and hold workshops. I will continue to make videos on Heathenry and other topics on YouTube, and engage with folks on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

I am also working on revamping my first book, my anthology Calling to Our Ancestors. I will be removing everything Galina gave to me for the book. In addition to reformatting it, I will be putting in new work so that the book serves two purposes: as a guide on how to do Ancestor veneration, worship, and work, and as a devotional. It is slow going. After all, it took about 4 years to put this book together the first time, and I have many more irons in the fire now than I did then.

I apologize to my loved ones, my family, my friends, and my community for holding my tongue when I should have spoken out. I apologize to the Heathen, Pagan, and polytheist communities for actively promoting Galina and Sannion’s work over the years. I apologize for defending and going to bat for people I should have recognized as actively harmful and toxic.

I am not who I was. I made my mistakes, and I own them. I will keep on doing the Work that is mine to do. My Work is not here to make amends. My Work is here for the Ginnreginn, and if amends are part of that, then that is what it is here for. All I can hope is that my Work shows my worth and my quality.

Patreon Topic 52: Maintaining Boundaries in Spiritwork

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Can you talk about maintaining boundaries in Spiritwork? For example: there’s debate I’ve seen online about passing messages you might get for people without them consenting to receive messages, and any issues you might have with randomly being pinged.”

Maintaining boundaries in spiritwork is absolutely necessary. A good part of keeping good boundaries is good spiritual hygiene and enforcing what boundaries you absolutely want to be kept up. Both require discipline. You have to be disciplined in doing cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding on a regular basis, and seeing that you fulfill your obligations, taboos, and so on. You have to be disciplined in saying “This far, no further” regardless of what God, Ancestors, or vaettr (spirit) is doing the asking or demanding. You have to be disciplined in determining what is or is not yours to pass on, and this goes for messages, any teachings or wisdom you may have on a subject, or really anything you could consider in spiritwork. This is why spiritual hygiene is so important. Your discernment suffers when you are not at your best, and while we cannot be at our best all the time, regular spiritual hygiene work keeps us clean, clear, and uncluttered for when we do have work to do.

Generally speaking I do not pass messages without permission. I generally do not do spiritwork without express permission, and that includes energy work, prayer, and other practices most folks look at as ‘benign’. ‘Help’, unasked for and unwanted, is no help at all. Worse, I am could be violating someone’s right to refuse help. The other side of this is much more practical: I have limited time and energy to get things done in a given day. If I kept throwing out energy to every single ‘energy work’, ‘prayer request’, and so on, it would be no different than donating every cent I have to everyone and every cause that I could think of to support. If I do that, there is nothing left for my Ginnreginn, my family, my communities, or my own needs. There is also no reciprocity here.

When it comes to keeping boundaries around messages, a few that I have are:

Unless I have been specifically asked, if a vaettr is asking to pass a message along I first ask the recipient. If the recipient says no, then that is the end of it. This holds true even in rituals where the point is that spiritual messages are being given. Before I read or do other spiritwork for a client we talk about expectations, boundaries, and the like that they can expect before, during, and after the work.

I am not an open terminal. Not every vaettr gets access to me. Unless I know the vaettr in question or have been specifically asked by a client to communicate with a certain vaettr, I do not take messages.

If the person needs to get a message I recognize I may not be the best route and communicate the to the vaettr in question. If I feel I am in the wrong headspace, especially with what should be a carefully worded/given message, I will negotiate for another time, or, if this is not possible, for the vaettr to find another way of getting the message to the recipient.

Regarding randomly being pinged: I treat it like a lot of folks who try to hit me up on social media without an introduction. I do not see why there is much in the way of debate around this: the vaettir, outside of Óðinn, do not own my time. If I have been handshaked into a conversation, whether by a person or by a God I have active, ongoing cultus with, that is a different story. The ‘pings’ then, aren’t random, they’re attempts at communication. Generally I do not take random pings. Any vaettr could be giving that, and I have no desire to borrow trouble from one that wants to use it as a backdoor. If a vaettr is not willing to go through proper channels that is a red flag.

I do not think anyone should feel under obligation to answer their spiritual door, let alone let any vaettr that knocks in. You should not feel that obligation from the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, or your community. If you choose to open the door to communication to any who call, that is your business. I do not recommend it, but in the end your boundaries to set and keep are just that.

Patreon Topic 50: On Völur Past and Present

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From Emily comes this topic:

“What was a volva and what being a volva would encompass today.”

The word völva means ‘staff-bearer’ per Neil Price in The Viking Way. This is a spiritual specialist who engages in seiðr and/or spá. Seiðr and spá are a galaxy of practices, among them being what we would readily recognize today as spiritwork, divination, prophecying, and various kinds of magic including curse work, protection, empowerment, and enchantment. What is most striking to me is that the staff referred to is both itself an instrument of power for directing spirits and energies, and a symbol of office. The wand or staff has a number of forms, including that of an iron distaff, a plain staff of iron or wood that is about as high as a walking cane, and a large staff that is made of iron or of wood, the latter carved and embellished. Price has an excellent overview of these in The Viking Way.

Völur (plural of völva) occupy an interesting area in Late Iron Age religion. As near as I can tell, between reading translations of the sagas and books on the subject, including the excellent The Viking Way by Neil Price and Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas DuBois, they were both admired and treated with fear. It is key to note that we have little to nothing from before this period, what is coloqially called The Viking Age, and almost all of it is filtered through Christian lenses from the period. So what were they? They were seers, witches, people you went to for spiritual work and spiritual advice. They were people who were to be respected. They were people to be feared. If you were a völva you walked a road between that of the people you served and the spirits.

In the Eiriks saga rauða, the Saga of Erik the Red, the völva is an itinerant spiritual specialist that speaks with and/or works with the spirits. At least with the example provided in this saga through Þorbiörg, she did not act alone. She required “a chorus of women and at least one assistant familiar with a magic song or incantation called varðlokkur” (DuBois 124). The use of a varðlokkur, a spirit calling song, is required as part of her seiðr ritual. I have seen this song referred to as an enticement song, a spirit calling song, and a warding song. Singing, chanting, incantations, and the like form or are part of at least a few of the varieties of seiðr as well as galdr.

Both books provide comparison and contrast between the accounts of seiðr, seiðkona, völur, and Sámi naidevuohtta (shamanism) and Finnish shamanism and rituals. Are völur shamans? In the sense that they provide many of the same ritual and societal functions, yes. However, a noaide is not a völva or seiðkona, and vice verse.

It is fairly clear that there was a lot of contact and sharing between the ancient Nordic, Sámi, and Finnish peoples. Each engaged in kinds of spirit contact. In some cases this involved singing, chanting, and/or trance induction through heavy or rapid breathing and/or ‘yawning’. Both DuBois and Price note that the seiðkonur, noaide, and Finnish shamans had mixed reputations for being both potentially helpful and harmful. They were called on to protect, to heal, to harm. In some cases the Sámi and Finno-Ugric peoples were pointed to as being sources of learning seiðr (DuBois 129). Far from being the only connection points, DuBois (71-73) and Price point out the vibrant trade in goods, as well as grave goods, similarities in treatment of and honoring of the dead, ancestor veneration, and so on that are expressed differently within these cultures yet still share touchstones with one another.

To be clear: the words shaman and shamanism are what amounts to academic loanwords in these books for similar spiritual specialists and phenomena. Where we can, I find it better to use words appropriate to the culture we are talking about. I encourage Heathens to use words appropriate to our religions/cultures, such as völva, seiðkona, and the like. When we do not have the words I encourage Heathens to work with newer terms like spiritworker and neologisms like vaettirvirkr (spiritsworker) formed from Old Norse or whatever language is appropriate to the culture background you are engaging with.

Some of the major differences between historical völur and modern völur is that 1) it seems a lot of them traveled a great deal between villages and towns in order to do their spiritual work, and 2) there were people who were expected to be able to perform the varðlokkur, so there was a groundswell of people within the community who had to be familiar with the rites. Eiriks saga rauða provides a very clear overview of a völva, and features of it and other seiðworkers can be found in the archaeological record. DuBois notes that though the practice is nebulous in what it is and how it is performed, it has a fairly consistent picture across time and stories (128).

“Within this array of pagan rituals, seiðr appears to respond primarily to situations of crisis and is undertaken by a religious specialist (usually a woman) at the request of a client and within the context of a communal gathering. The ritual appeals to some sort of spirit helpers, either for divinatory information or help in controlling the minds and wills of others. Typical is the detailed account included in the thirteenth-century Eiríks saga rauða, in which an itinerant seiðr practitioner named Þorbiörg is invited to a Greenland farmstead to help the community discover whether its current run of ill luck will continue.”

Nordic Religions in the Viking Age, DuBois 123

The lack of experience with seiðr, both in terms of familiarity with the subject itself in Heathenry more broadly, and with specific practices within it, means that völur and other seiðworkers have to do a lot of work to revive this practice. The saga accounts, grave goods, what surviving folks practices we may look to, and conjecture from academics only do us so much. A lot of modern völva work is going to have to just be done. In a way, this lack of concrete bounds for modern völur and other seiðworkers means that we are free to cocreate new ways of being these things in modern contexts alongside our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. While there has been a lot lost with these traditions, it means that our roles and rites can move with the requirements of our Ginnreginn and communities.

This is where especially The Viking Way is a treasure trove, both in how it lays out the information and in the sheer breadth of information it has available in it. The kinds of magic Price writes about alone is helpful because it helps expand our lexicon for kinds of magic and magical practice such as gandr, fjǫlkyngi, and ljóð, which could be combined with seiðr or performed separately, a kind of seiðr such as kveldriða (cold-rider, Price 77). Since a given völva could well perform any or all of these things, or just stick to one specialty, eg gandr or spá in general, becoming more familiar and working with these terms also means we develop a more specifically Heathen way of working with the sources as inspiration and information. Because a given völva is not limited to one practice it is perhaps better to think on how we use these terms to describe the job of being a völva just as the various -riða terms such as kveldriða describe seiðworkers engaging in magical work on others.

What is a modern völva in Heathenry? A völva is a Heathen spiritual specialist, a seer who works with the spirits to gather and share information, and to enact change. Where a seiðworker may do a variety of things, including spá, a völva’s primary job for whatever community or communities she is part of is to speak and work with the spirits, gather information from Them and/or with Them, and enact change with Them. The way I understand modern völur is that their job is to work for/on behalf of their communities with the vaettir. Since we no longer have any living memory of varðlokkur I think that it is a good thing for anyone wanting to do this work to find or ask for inspiration from the vaettir to gain such a song. Maybe it has words, maybe it is a melody; whatever it ends up being, it is a song that works to bring the vaettir to the völva so the work can begin, and be maintained.

Being a völva is, like every other spiritual specialty, a job. It is taking on Work. Maybe you come to it through being grabbed up by a Goddess, eg Freyja. Maybe you went to Her and asked Her to bring you into the work because you feel called to the Work itself. Whatever your inroad, initially you train, engage in good spiritual discipline, and develop yourself and your relationships so you can effectively do the spiritual work of the job. Then, you do the work of being a völva while continuing to train, engage in good spiritual discipline, and developing yourself and your relationships so you can keep being more effective as you go on. Ideally, you would have a spiritual mentor, as well as at least 1-3 people you can go to for divination so you can keep yourself on an even keel. To this end I highly recommend Jim Two Snake’s Spiritual Accounting PDF.

Since becoming a völva is beyond this post, how would we contrast a modern Heathen völva with a person being a seiðworker? I look at völur as a communal role whereas seiðr is fairly accessible to anyone willing to put the work in. You might work with seiðr to make a taufr, an enchanted physical object (Price 36), in crochet or knitting, eg crafting a blanket for warmth and protection. You might do seiðr to work with vaettir to just gather information for your own purposes, such as through a gandr ritual using a gǫndull, a wand or staff for gandr, and/or a ‘yawn’ or the use of breath such as song, chant, or croaking (Price 184) in where you push the vaettir to give you information. You might work with a spá ritual in a light trance where you commune with the vaettir to that end. All of these are accessible modes of operation to both the völva and the average seiðworker. Now, perhaps a given seiðworker is not comfortable working with völva as a term because it is definitely feminine-gendered, and this is where we need to develop more terms or work with neologisms. In my own case I am fine with the terms vaettirvirkr and seiðmaðr (a seiðr-man) for the moment, as I do spiritswork as a spiritual specialist, with seiðr as part of that work.

The difference between a völva and a seiðworker is that, for our purposes here, völur are spiritual specialists whose job it is to work with/on behalf of a community where a given seiðworker may be working on their own. We develop these meanings, work, and community together. What really makes the difference between a völur and seiðworker in the end is whether the word clicks for you, describes what you do, and if you are serving a community what words that community calls you. Being a völva today is not much different in that regard than what it was centuries ago: you serve a community, connecting them with the spirits to speak with them, gather information and to work with Them to change things.

Patreon Topic 46: On Housevaettir

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From Alexis comes this topic:

“Have you talked about house vættir?”

Not in so many words until your topic on this post and Q&A request here.

Are the housevaettir landvaettir? Yes, and They are separate. From the Q&A:

There are a few reasons I make a distinction.

First, the house is an entity unto itself marked by the boundaries of its walls and outer doors.


Second, our modern houses are generally distinct from the land they sit on or in. Very few homes anymore are made with materials directly sourced on site.

Third, the means of relating to home vs land are different in how we treat and understand ourselves in those spaces. 

Our relationships with our home are fundamentally different to ‘the outside’. Even where there is bleedover between the two boundaries of húsvaettir and landvaettir I find there is usually some distinction in relationship with us.

March 2021 Q&A 2

Are the beings that live on/with the land landvaettir? They can be. That answer also implies we are also vaettir ourselves. It is true though, we are vaettir. We are not becoming vaettir and we do not become vaettir when we die; we are vaettir whatever the condition of our líki (body) or other soul parts.

So the distinction here is that we ourselves are not landvaettir until we join with the land. Likewise with húsvaettir. We are close, sometimes even indistinct if you are taking a bird’s eye view, yet we are still distinct from each other. I am no more a rock than I am separate from the land.

Húsvaettir are more intimate with us and vice versa than a lot of vaettir. After all, we live in and with Them. We see Them sometimes more than our own extended families, so having a good relationship with Them is all to our mutual good.

Each vaettr within the home is a vaettr unto itself, and yet, like with our own bodies and the billions of cells that make us up, as we constitute a whole so does the collective húsvaettir. If we look at the home itself as a composite Being, we can clearly see the idea of the soul matrix applies to it.

The materials that make up the house is the líki (body), the air that circulates through the home is its önd (breath), the heat and cool the lá (heat), the litr (color/blooming hue/goodly hue) would be how the interior and exterior are lit and the emotions the painting of the alls and decorations bring. How are its hugr (mind/memories/spirit) formed? The decorations are part of that too, especially photographs, the layout of special places including the hearth or what serves for it, the places shrines are placed, and the bedrooms. The munr (mood/mind/logic) is the flow of the home’s layout and the layout itself, and I also see it in the way that the guts of the house are arranged for flow of information such as the cable and ethernet lines. The hamr is the second skin, the spiritual form of the house. Perhaps it appears warm and inviting to us who live in it, but it could just as easily look foreboding to unwelcome spirits.

What might its fylgja and kinfylgja be? Those vaettir that it descends from, the constituent Beings of wood, metal, and the Dead that are Ancestors of the large amount of oil-derived products (if it is a modern Western home), or whatever is used to build the home. Its hamingja (group luck) is made with those who live with/within It and whom It helps to keep well. If the home’s occupants actively seek to make oaths with It before occupation then keeping Its part of them increases Its own hamingja. Its megin is felt in how it welcomes those who live with/in It in, and how it stands up to storms and other occurences in Its life. Its ørlög is laid down when it is made, and its Urðr unfolds from here as it ages.

Here’s a fun thought to think on: if we understand that the house itself is distinct and separate from us, possessing its own soul matrix whether occupied or not, then what are we when we live inside a house?

In a sense we are distinct from the house in that we can pack up, leave, and never come back at any point in time. The húsvaettir cannot do that. We die, and the house still stands. Perhaps someone else will come along to call it home. Yet, without a home we as humans are understood as missing something vital. So, in this sense a house is a distinct entity from us, and so too are the húsvaettir and landvaettir.

Mind you, I am not saying we need to have a rooted-to-the-ground home to have a home or that this understanding of húsvaettir is exclusive to American stick built homes. There are plenty of examples of homes that can be carried on your back or that of an animal or vehicle, whether a tent, a yurt, a tiny home on a trailer, a camper, or RV. What matters it that this is a place we call and relate to as a home, as our home. As with a lot of things in Heathenry, it comes down to the relationships we are engaged in.

My relationships with the húsvaettir are expressed in similar ways to those of other vaettir. We have a space for the húsvaettir on a vé that They share with our Ancestors, the févaettir (moneyvaettir aka money spirits), and Andvari. They get offers the same as other vaettir, usually water, but also on herbs and food on occasion. As with other vaettir, engaging respectfully, and with respectful lines of communication is the best way to developing a good relationship with the húsvaettir.